Many tourists are drawn to the Caribbean because of the allure of Carnival. Carnival is an annual celebration full of music, food, and festivities. It began as a Catholic celebration prior to the 6 week period of meat fasting known as the Lenten. Hence, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, popularly known as “Fat Tuesday,” is the last day prior to the fast. The actual time periods for Carnival celebrations can differ depending on the island.
Carnival is such an important celebration that on some islands, celebration preparations begin a year in advance. During Carnival festivities, there are various parades, musical performances, and plenty of food to enjoy. Various awards, such as the King of Calypso award is handed out to individuals with the most creative costumes.
Listed below are details about Carnival celebrations on various Caribbean islands. Tourists should keep in mind that the dates for Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday usually fall on different dates each year.
One of the largest and most popular Caribbean Carnival celebrations is held on Trinidad. Beginning in the latter half of the Eighteenth Century, Carnival celebrations in Trinidad have always been highlighted by large parades, ornate costumes, and music festivals.
Certain Carnival celebrations occur prior to Ash Wednesday, but the largest festivities begin a couple of days prior to Ash Wednesday.
Visitors to Curacao can enjoy Carnival celebrations during the first few months of the New Year since some Carnival festivities begin on New Year’s Day and continue until Ash Wednesday. Music lovers should arrange to be on the island during the four day Tumba Festival.
Carnival celebrations are held on St. Croix around Christmas. Tourists can enjoy exotic food, music festivals, and other events. Celebrations last until late January.
Carnival celebrations on the Bahamas begin on New Year’s Day during the Junkanoo street parade.
Carnival festivities begin in Aruba during January and end in February. The festivities are concluded with the Grand Night Parade.
Carnival festivities on St. Kitts usually begin January 3. It is marked by various parades, musical celebrations, and other events.
Carnival celebrations do not begin on St. Barts until just prior to the Lenten. Festivities begin with the grand costume parade and conclude at Shell Beach when Vaval is burned in effigy.
Carnival did not become popular on Jamaica until about 20 years ago. Now, celebrations are held during the spring months in Kingston and other major Jamaican cities.
Travelers to St. Martin/St. Maarten can decide to attend Carnival celebrations either during Easter on St Maarten or just prior to the Lenten on St. Martin. Festivities on St. Maarten consist of food booths, large parades, dancers wearing decorative costumes, and concerts lasting for 19 days. To conclude the festivities, King Momo, a mythical Carnival character, is burned in effigy to signify the island’s rebirth.
Batabano, the name for Carnival celebrations on the Cayman Islands, begins around Easter. Festivities include parades, street concerts, and dancers adorned in decorative costumes.
Vacationers traveling to St. Thomas between April and May can enjoy a month full of Carnival festivities on the island.
If you are visiting the Caribbean in the summer, here are some Carnivals you won't want to miss.
During 10 days between July and August, Antiguan residents gather to celebrate Carnival. Calypso concerts, parades, and a steel band competition are just a few of the highlights of this 10 day celebration.
Vacationers traveling to St. John, one of the islands making up the U.S. Virgin Islands, can take part in the St. John Festival during June each year. This celebration is the island’s version of Carnival. Celebrations begin with the Festival Ball while a Calypso festival, a food festival located at Cruz Park, and other celebrations are held before most activities conclude on the 4th of July. A large parade and firework show held on July 3 commemorating Emancipation Day concludes the St. John Festival.
Travelers interested in attending the largest summer Carnival celebration should travel to Barbados during July. Known as the Crop Over, this celebration has its roots in a traditional celebration commemorating the end of the sugar cane harvest. The pinnacle of the Crop Over celebration occurs in August on the first Monday of the month. During this national holiday known as the Kadooment Day, residents celebrate with calypso bands, food, and a parade featuring elaborate floats and costumes.